Alexander the great was a great conqueror, great emperor, and is still famous.
His empire extended across large swathes of Asia, Europe, and Africa.
But time, inexorable time, took away his life one day, while away from home, in a camp, surrounded by his doctors and generals.
As Alexander the Great lay on his deathbed, waiting to breathe his last, he told his generals that he had three last wishes.
- That his physicians should bear his coffin
- That the path leading to the grave should be strewn with the treasures he had in his treasury
- That his hands were to be left dangling out of the coffin.
His generals tearfully agreed, but asked why the emperor made such strange last wishes.
Alexander explained that no one was able to stop death, not even the best physicians of the most powerful emperor on earth.
He then explained that all that he had accumulated, all his treasures, were left behind.
Finally, he explained that he was taking nothing with him, that he was going empty handed.
Those were profound realisations, but there is something he did not realize.
The soul who was called “Alexander the Great” came with a lot of pious credits, the karmic credits needed to become an emperor of the world. While fulfilling his karmic destiny, he accumulated a lot of karmic reactions too.
Think of all the soldiers who died fighting for him.
Think of all the soldiers who died fighting against him.
He also took with him the results of any acts of kindness.
All for what? Just so Alexander could be a great conqueror? What did Alexander really accomplish? As he fortunately realized, better late than never, he took nothing of his achievements with him. But yes, his karmic reactions, he will carry with him.
Soon after his death, the mighty empire that he had put together after all those battles in which he was unconquered, crumbled. His once mighty body, also disintegrated.
After all, there is no endurance of the body.
नासतो विद्यते भावो नाभावो विद्यते सतः ।
उभयोरपि दृष्टोऽन्तस्त्वनयोस्तत्त्वदर्शिभिः ॥ १६ ॥
nāsato vidyate bhāvo
nābhāvo vidyate sataḥ
ubhayor api dṛṣṭo ’ntas
tv anayos tattva-darśibhiḥ
Those who are seers of the truth have concluded that of the nonexistent [the material body] there is no endurance and of the eternal [the soul] there is no change. This they have concluded by studying the nature of both.https://vedabase.io/en/library/bg/2/16/
While Alexander had some realizations on his deathbed, he did not have anyone to instruct him on this important truth…
आयुर्हरति वै पुंसामुद्यन्नस्तं च यन्नसौ ।
तस्यर्ते यत्क्षणो नीत उत्तमश्लोकवार्तया ॥ १७ ॥
āyur harati vai puṁsām
udyann astaṁ ca yann asau
tasyarte yat-kṣaṇo nīta
Both by rising and by setting, the sun decreases the duration of life of everyone, except one who utilizes the time by discussing topics of the all-good Personality of Godhead.https://vedabase.io/en/library/sb/2/3/17/
There is something else he could have taken with him. Anything spiritual he may have done. Alexander was tutored by Aristotle, the illustrious student of Plato, who is widely regarded as one of the primary contributors to Western Religion.
You may feel blessed with many gifts, or you may feel impoverished. Whether you have been given a lot or you have somehow acquired a lot, please know that you will take none of it with you.
You will however take your spiritual assets with you eternally.
नेहाभिक्रमनाशोऽस्ति प्रत्यवायो न विद्यते ।
स्वल्पमप्यस्य धर्मस्य त्रायते महतो भयात् ॥ ४० ॥
pratyavāyo na vidyate
sv-alpam apy asya dharmasya
trāyate mahato bhayāt
In this endeavor there is no loss or diminution, and a little advancement on this path can protect one from the most dangerous type of fear.https://vedabase.io/en/library/bg/2/40/
And what is this endeavor?
As Srila Prabhupada writes…
Activity in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, or acting for the benefit of Kṛṣṇa without expectation of sense gratification, is the highest transcendental quality of work. Even a small beginning of such activity finds no impediment, nor can that small beginning be lost at any stage. Any work begun on the material plane has to be completed, otherwise the whole attempt becomes a failure.https://vedabase.io/en/library/bg/2/40/